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Langley asks county planners for help on Langley Passage project

COUPEVILLE — Langley officials have asked Island County for help on the controversial Langley Passage housing project.

The topic came up during this week’s work session for county commissioners. County Planning Director Bob Pederson said Langley wanted help with processing the development proposal.

Langley Passage has been in legal limbo since late last year, when the city council unanimously rejected the plan for the 20-home project over fears that development would endanger the nearby bluff overlooking Saratoga Passage.

The developers, Whidbey Neighborhood Partners, then notified the city it would face a lawsuit for improperly processing the project unless the council reconsidered, and later offered to put in a sewer line that would help stabilize the bluff.

The request for county assistance came after Carol Morris, an attorney representing Langley, sent a harshly worded letter to Doug Kelly, a lawyer representing Whidbey Neighborhood Partners, on Jan. 26 that forbid Kelly from talking to city staff about the project.

“There is no excuse for your continuing communication with the city and city staff, especially since you have been threatening to file lawsuits against the city,” Morris wrote.

Morris complained that Kelly had contacted Larry Kwarsick, Langley’s planning director, to talk about a permit exemption for proposed sewer and water lines. City officials have expressed concerns that utility pipes would cross the Langley Passage property near a wetland, but the developers have secured an easement for the new water and sewer lines from a neighboring property owner.

Morris said Kwarsick was not working on Langley Passage because he had previously worked for the developer of Langley Passage.

Challis Stringer, Langley’s public works director, wrote the county on Jan. 31, saying the mayor and Morris wanted the county’s assistance so the city would avoid any “conflict of interest” or “appearance of fairness” claims. County planners have been asked to determine if the amended utility plan submitted by Whidbey Neighborhood Partners complies with city regulations.

Pederson said the county was willing to help, but added that assistance will be limited to advice only.

“The underlying decision needs to be theirs and theirs alone,” he said.

In her letter, Stringer said she couldn’t find any environmental issues that would arise from placing the utility lines on the property next to Langley Passage. Stringer also said the proposed utility lines are below the size that would trigger a separate environmental review by the city.

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